Horror Stories

by Greg Egan


This section gathers together some horror stories that I’ve placed online. Links to many other stories can be found here.

“Scatter My Ashes”

Every night, at exactly a quarter past three, something dreadful happens on the street outside our bedroom window. We peek through the curtains, yawning and shivering in the life-draining chill, and then we clamber back beneath the blankets without exchanging a word, to hug each other tightly and hope for sound sleep before it’s time to rise.

Usually what we witness verges on the mundane. Drunken young men fighting, swaying about with outstretched knives, cursing incoherently. Robbery, bashings, rape. We wince to see such violence, but we can hardly be shocked or surprised any more, and we’re never tempted to intervene: it’s always far too cold, for a start! A single warm exhalation can coat the window pane with mist, transforming the most stomach-wrenching assault into a safely cryptic ballet for abstract blobs of light.

On some nights, though, when the shadows in the room are subtly wrong, when the familiar street looks like an abandoned film set, or a painting of itself perversely come to life, we are confronted by truly disturbing sights, oppressive apparitions which almost make us doubt we’re awake, or, if awake, sane. I can’t catalogue these visions, for most, mercifully, are blurred by morning, leaving only a vague uneasiness and a reluctance to be alone even in the brightest sunshine.

“Neighbourhood Watch”

My retainers keep me on ice. Dry ice. It slows my metabolism, takes the edge off my appetite, slightly. I lie, bound with heavy chains, between two great slabs of it, naked and sweating, trying to sleep through the torment of a summer’s day.

They’ve given me the local fall-out shelter, the very deepest room they could find, as I requested. Yet my senses move easily through the earth and to the surface, out across the lazy, warm suburbs, restless emissaries skimming the sun-soaked streets. If I could rein them in I would, but the instinct that drives them is a force unto itself, a necessary consequence of what I am and the reason I was brought into being.

“Mind Vampires”

There are moments when my mind misses a beat. I find myself, in mid-step or mid-breath, feeling as if delivered abruptly into my body after a long absence (spent where, I could not say), or a long, dreamless sleep. I lose not my memory, merely my thread. My attention has inexplicably wandered, but a little calm introspection restores my context and brings me peace. Almost peace.

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Horror Stories / created Tuesday, 29 May 2001
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